Early-Career Reviewers Are Key to the Success of Endocrinology

Last year, Endocrinology began soliciting nominations for early-career endocrinologists to review papers for the Endocrine Society’s (and endocrinology’s) premier journal, an effort spearheaded by Endocrinology’s editor-in-chief Teresa K. Woodruff, PhD, of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, and supported by the journal’s associate editors.

“Endocrinology is a field of many hormones, many organs, many diseases, and many routes back to health. Endocrinology as a journal has many authors, many associate editors, many expert reviewers and now, many early career referees,” Woodruff says. “My goal in starting the Early-Career Reviewer (ECR) program is to enable a way for our early-career Endocrine Society members to learn how to review papers and generate formal professional credit in the process. I believe that by bringing together the breadth of endocrine science with the breadth of endocrinologists, and by publishing this work in Endocrinology, we will more rapidly understand the functions of the hormones, organs to limit disease, and optimize health.”

These early-career researchers understand their responsibilities in reviewing these manuscripts — that the science is not only sound and accurate, but also the basis for future research. And they’re making sure they learn from more established researchers in their field. “It’s been a great opportunity to review papers thus far,” says Angelina M. Hernandez-Carretero, PhD, of the City of Hope Beckman Research Institute in Duarte, Calif. “I enjoy sharing my expertise and gaining new insight while reviewing papers.”

This program also allows for early-career endocrinologists to learn from missteps or mistakes, making course corrections in order to grow as researchers. “It has been nice to compare my critiques and comments with those of the second, more established reviewer,” says Daniel J. Tobiansky, PhD of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. “Seeing discrepancies and critiques that I have missed while reviewing the paper has been the most informative.”

Endocrinology is once again soliciting nominations for early-career reviewers (either self-nominated or nominated by a colleague) for the 2020 academic year, accepting these nominations now through November 1, 2019. To be considered as an Early-Career Reviewer (ECR) for Endocrinology, researchers must have received a PhD and have published at least three papers, with one or more as first author or co-first author. This is a great opportunity for early-career researchers, since traditionally, there is little to no opportunity to practice reviewing skills before those in the early stages of their careers are invited to formally review a submission.

Formerly, principal investigators would ask postdoctoral fellows, and even some advanced graduate students, to help them review papers on their behalf. According to Mario G. Oyola, PhD, of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md., this behavior is less observed today, as the confidentiality agreement between the reviewer and the journal in question becomes increasingly honored and enforced. “Opportunities, such as those proposed by the [early-career review program], offer a platform on which trainees can not only learn the skills required for conducting a proper review, but also distill their personal reviewing style and perhaps even approach their own science from the more critical viewpoint of a reviewer.”

And the opportunities provided by this program are myriad. Early-career reviewers get to see what’s at the forefront of the endocrine sciences and read manuscripts that they wouldn’t have had the chance to otherwise. It also provides a valuable network of well-respected endocrinologists from which to learn. “You see the quality of science and writing that gets submitted to a well-respected journal like Endocrinology, and you can use your experience in reviewing and reading the other reviews to improve both your science and writing,” Tobiansky says.

And again, as Hernandez-Carterro says, this experience can help early-career researchers gain valuable insight into their own skills as scientists, even overcoming any self-doubt that can creep in. “As an early career investigator, there are many times where I question myself as an expert,” she says. “There was one experience I had reviewing a paper where I thought it was not worthy to be published. I questioned whether I was being too harsh but came to realize that the other reviewers felt the same way and it was unanimously rejected. Trust yourself and your expertise.”

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